“My Colleague Stabbed Me in the Back!”

Businessman with a knife behind his back.

I’m a graduate student in the sciences who was asked to present my work at a conference last month. The nature of my research and that of my co-student, let’s call him “Twerp,” is somewhat similar, so the organizers asked us to combine abstracts to present together. Twerp is also a few months senior, and because only one “presenting author” is allowed, I let him take the title out of generosity even though I am an equal contributor to the work. We presented our work at a session where the presenting author answers the questions of scientists passing through for a few hours. The night before our session, knowing the world to operate in an inherently sexist way, I told my co-student that we should either split the time or trade questions. I wanted to let my desire for equal face time be known – some of these attendees are important in the field and this is a great networking opportunity.

On the day of the session, Twerp is continually approached and makes no effort to deflect any of the visitors my way. He might have easily said “This is my equal co-author, she can tell you all about this…”, but he didn’t. After he had taken five visitors questions, I started to fume and told him he needed to leave, to which he agreed. We spent two more awkward days together, and he NEVER offered an apology and I feel utterly backstabbed because we were friendly until this incident, grabbing coffee in the mornings, etc. Is this finally a taste of the cut-throat academia? Maybe the congenial atmosphere of my lab was just an exception up until this point?

Today, it has been exactly two weeks since the conference. I confronted him, and he offered no apology or admittance of wrongdoing whatsoever and was snarky and sarcastic to me throughout the conversation. I told him I would have to tell our advisor what has happened and ensure that at the next conference I get to have all presentation time. Do you think this is the right call? I don’t want to be childish. How do I get through these next 3-4 years when he sits five feet away from me and the very sight of him makes my blood boil!!? — Grad School Woes

What you experienced was not a taste of cut-throat academia; it was a taste of the way the work world works. Whether you work in the Academy or sell insurance for a living, you are constantly in competition with your colleagues. You’re in competition for promotions, clients, bonuses, better schedules, better offices, raises, etc., etc. That doesn’t mean that the competition has to rule your work relationships or that you can’t be congenial with your colleagues, but it does mean that you have to watch your back, stand up for yourself, and always, ALWAYS look out for Numero Uno because no one else will as well as you can.

This experience was also an important lesson — or reminder — that as a woman in a world and, especially, a field, that is run predominantly by men, you HAVE to be assertive. You can’t just hand over a title or a position or an opportunity that you have just as much right to “to be generous.” Men don’t do that. And you shouldn’t either. What you do is fight for it. Or flip for it. Or figure out some negotiating tactics so that if you do hand over an opportunity that is equally yours, you get something in return. Maybe: “I’ll let you present at the conference, but I want to be listed as first author.” Or something like that. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up a career opportunity that brings you nothing in return “to be generous.” That’s just stupid. And don’t ever make an assumption that your generosity will be remembered and will help you some time down the line. If you’re giving something away in hopes of creating an alliance that will prove beneficial to you in the future, then think about what you hope that person may be able to offer you or do for you, and make that hope known. (There’s still no guarantee that you’ll get what you hope for, so be smart about using this particular negotiating tactic). And read: “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” for more career advice.

As for how you’ll get through the next 3-4 years sitting five feet away from this guy who failed to pass a few session questions your way during one of your first conferences, think of this as a lesson in how the real world works. Most people sit a few feet away from a co-worker they don’t like. And the way they deal with it is by being cordial at the office and then blowing off steam at happy hour or at the gym or on the weekends with their friends.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. kerrycontrary says:

    WWS! Couldn’t say it any better or add anything more. I have known professors to steal their graduate students work, publish it as their own, and no one confronts them. This is real life.

    1. I think that happened to a friend of mine while she was working on her Phd. Her supervising professor, who really had no involvement in her research, insisted that his name be listed as the author of the paper she published.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Your supervising professor is involved in your work by supervising it. Their reputation is on the line and it is their responsibility to make sure your work is of good enough quality to publish. In the hard sciences they also fund your work by pulling in grant money so their name goes on your work along with your own name and the name of anyone else who helped.

      2. I’m just going by what she told me. I don’t know all the details. I just remember how upset she was.

      3. kerrycontrary says:

        In my Grad school one professor took some students paper, took their names off of it and used his, and then he won and award for it and didn’t mention them (wasn’t their supervising professor). This is commonplace. You have to be really careful who you share your work with.

      4. What?! Tell me on facebook! Inquiring minds want to know.

      5. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I depends on your program and field a lot. My fiance is in the process of completing his Phd in a history and his advisors and very little involvement in his research and writing. Like the only time he interacts with his advisors is when my fiance calls/e-mails them.

  2. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

    I agree with WWS and would add one thing: Don’t tell your advisor. This is something between the two of you. You’ve learned your lesson. Deal with it. Tattling with NOT help your reputation whatsoever nor will it hurt his.

  3. Right? Wendy’s response was perfect.

    My group was asked to come up with ideas about better way to win work. We did, my boss sent the e-mail to her boss, and he forwarded to the higher ups, taking full credit. This totally happens and Wendy’s right, the best way to blow off steam is venting with friends over happy hour. It helps. A lot.

    Also, I WOULD NOT tell on him. It will make you look childish. Especially since it’s several weeks after the fact. You could have maybe said something within a couple days, but your window of opportunity has passesd. Chalk it up to lesson learned and follow Wendy’s awesome advice in the future.

    1. That was supposed to be under kerrycontrary’s. So the “Right?” should make sense.

  4. WWS. Also—ughhhh. This letter kind of made me roll my eyes, a lot? I mean, is this why everyone hates my generation? LW, I’m sorry, but you need to be aware that the unfortunate way your presentation turned out? was *not* really the fault of your co-student. ~You~ are the one who passed along the title of presenter to him (out of “generosity”) & despite your vocalizations of desire for “equal time”, he was under no obligation to direct questions to you.

    Would it have been nice? Sure. Maybe he intended to, even, but in the flow of things, it slipped his mind. Clearly, it hadn’t slipped yours, though—so why didn’t you speak up? I have trouble believing that there was no smooth way to cut in like, “Actually, I’d like to answer that, if you don’t mind…” But you didn’t do this—you waited angrily for him to hand the reins over to you & then told him he had to leave (?? what??). So, those are all things YOU did/didn’t do. All on you.

    I know I’m being harsh, but I think you need to see that you’re NOT a victim of “cutthroat academia” or whatever else. And you have the power to control the way things go next time. Don’t give someone else a title that YOU really want. Don’t wait around for permission to speak. STOP waiting around for a damn apology from this guy. And really? Maybe some will disagree, but I’ll also tell you ~not~ to tell your advisor about this. You don’t want to be childish, you said? Yeah, doing that would be childish, I think. It’s basically admitting that you can’t stand up for yourself.

    As for your last bit, all you have to do is stop fuming & you’ll be able to sit near this guy no problem. And the way you stop fuming is to take responsibility for your mistakes in all this.

    1. WFS. The business world is tough, and you can expect almost every time that your kindness will be mistaken for weakness. I agree that she should have been more assertive in offering to answer questions and taking responsibility for making her own worth known. Your colleagues might call you a bitch but does that really matter when you become the boss?

  5. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    Ha, sorry but what a dumb naive move. Chalk this up to a HUGE lesson learned and you can get back at this guy by producing even better work than him.

  6. LW, this is the sort of mistake that most young people (but especially women) make when starting out their professional careers. It’s no one’s mistake but your own. However, you’re still young and new in the field so you’ll have plenty of time to make up for it if you don’t dwell on this and/or do anything childish (like “tattle” on your co-student).

  7. I just have one more thing to add to my above comment. In your future presentations, maybe you can keep a few of your best ideas/concepts private from your fellow students and surprise the heck out of everyone at the presentation. That way, no one can take credit for your best work and you give the impression of being the lone genius coming in out of left field with some brilliant shit. It’s a stupid game for sure, but you want to win right?

  8. WW (and everyone else) S! Also, LW, find a really good mentor – female if you can, if you are in a male-dominated field, but a good male mentor can work, too – in your field and observe how they present, how they handle delicate situations and how they network. Take inspiration from how they handle themselves in real-world situations and adapt them for your own. This is the kind of stuff that they do not and cannot teach you in school, and it is crucial for success. And for the love of god, like everyone else has said, don’t go crying to your advisor because something that happened in the real world wasn’t fair to you. The best thing that can come from that is that your advisor will think you’re an immature child who cannot handle real life situations. Certainly, no one is going to chastise “Twerp” or mandate you get more time next time or do anything at all for you to make your life fair. Instead, accept responsibility for your mistake and learn from it.

    1. ” no one is going to chastise “Twerp” or mandate you get more time next time or do anything at all for you to make your life fair.”

      truth! this aint kindergarden, LW. “fair” is an abstract and situational theory, a judgement call that will be made by many people you encounter in many different ways…

    2. I’ve found female mentors the WORST…which was so surprising to me since I typically have no issue getting along with women. Perhaps it was the particular firm culture I was at but I was so disappointed that a good 90% of them were competitive with their female mentees. That was definitely something I wasn’t expecting particularly since there weren’t a lot of women at the firm to begin with. So don’t judge your mentor by gender – judge by how they treat their mentees and what kind of working relationship you can have with them. Best mentor I ever had was a guy who came to my wedding and still gets invited to my pool parties and BBQs every year even though we haven’t worked together in almost 10 years. And still calls me up once or twice a year to take me out on a fully expensed “mentor lunch”.

      1. I’m not too surprised by the fact that female mentors in an area with very few women are competitive. Sometimes people naturally are defensive, trying to hold their spot as ‘the woman’ in their organization and will deflect newcomers threatening their niche rather than trying to be inclusive. Yeah, I usually just go with a mentor who is awesome regardless of their gender.

    3. Here’s an idea: get a female mentor, but not one from your specific area. She’ll be familiar with the ins and outs of academia, but you won’t be competing for resources (money, article space) or ideas. I have a mentor in my department who works on something totally different than I do, and she’s been awesome.

      1. Having a female mentor does not necessarily mean things would be better for her. Some of the harshest mentors out there are women–they feel like they have to toughen you up. I’ve had female and male mentors. The female ones were sometimes much worse. Also, studies where they give male and female professors fake resumes with the same information but different gendered names on them show both male and female scientists rate the female resumes as worse. Besides, once you join a lab, you’re there. Switching labs is a big deal

      2. A mentor doesn’t need to be your advisor, so nobody needs to switch lab here. I am a female in a male dominated scientific field, and I’ve done enough research in different lab/universities/countries to see that male and female mentors can both be great, and do not need to be your advisor.

        I did some summer work with a female professor once. She was young and sweet, we spent a lot of time one-on-one chatting about work, science and personal life. She knows a lot about academia and our field. There is no competition between her and I, since I worked for her as an invited undergraduate student and she’s a professor. She will stay my mentor even when I’ll be working in someone else’s lab. Mentor and advisor do not have the same definition.

      3. A little late to reply, but I just came up for a breath of air from work and thought I’d check to see if I generated any discussion. First, I agree: a mentor can be male or female. That said, I recently had to weigh the pros and cons of making a choice between a good career move that would be really bad for my personal life and a so-so career move that would be really good for my personal life. I was very happy that I had a woman to talk to about this decision: males have a different experience with life/work balance than most women. And I agree with Miel– your advisor and your mentor are not always one and the same. My mentor is in a different field, but she does know what it means to be a woman in academia, which is what I was looking for.

  9. yea, WWS. also, like fabelle pointed out- this is why people hate the entitled 80’s babies. i mean, ill admit that everything i know about “cut-throat academia” i learned from the big bang theory, but from what you said i just imagine you standing there, in silence, fuming at how your colleague was answering all these questions that you two were supposed to split. i mean, really? why didnt you start going up to people, saying “im the co-author, what is you question?” or, “isnt X part of this interesting? when i figured that out, i ran into this roadblock, and this is how i moved past it.. oh, yes, im actually the co-author..”. or SOMETHING. i mean, anything, really. why didnt you say anything? i dont understand that, at all, but i think its a great illustration of the stereotype of the 80’s babies- we just sit there, waiting for something to happen TO US, instead of going out and making things happen FOR US.

    so, yes, LW, lesson learned. you need to be more assertive. you need to speak up. you need to take more credit. now, this is definitely not to say that you need to become some bitchy shrew of a co-worker. not at all! you can definitely be assertive and look out for yourself while being fair and kind to others. please, please, please do not swing all the way over to the opposite extreme of the spectrum.

    and i dont know why you see your co-worker as some terrible person who you wont be able to stand for the next 3-4 years. think about this from his point of view- his co-worker let him be named on a paper, his co-worker let him speak at some convention, and the format is that he would then take the questions, which he did. thats awesome! if that happened to you, i guarantee you would be happy about it and jump at the networking and career advancing opportunity. you cant really hold anything against this guy. you handed him this whole thing on a silver platter wrapped with a pretty bow. who wouldnt accept that?

    1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

      Yeah, if she can’t assert herself productively, she’s not going to do well.

    2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      I don’t understand why the LW’s inability to assert herself means she is an entitled 80’s baby. I don’t get that arguement. She just didn’t stand up for herself.

      Also, it annoys the bejesus out of me that people give “80’s babies” shit all the time but the generation goes from 1982 to 2001- so all those 90’s children apparently have the same traits/characterstics. It’s the millenials or Gen Y or what ever, but it’s not JUST people born from 1980 to 1989 who apparently have all these negative charactoristics.

      1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        She’s being entitled because she’s outraged he didn’t step aside and let her shine when she made no indication to him that she thought she should get the opportunity to do so. She felt her generosity entitled her to that, when in reality, it was just her kind of being a doormat. Plus because she didn’t get her way, she wanted to tattle on him, which is just an ABSURD reaction that if you’re at this point in your life…you should really know better.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        “The night before our session, knowing the world to operate in an inherently sexist way, I told my co-student that we should either split the time or trade questions. I wanted to let my desire for equal face time be known…”

        Clearly stated to him that she wanted an equal share of face time. I completely agree she should have asserted herself better the day of the conference while fielding questions but it reads to me that she made her expectations pretty damn clear in advance.

      3. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        And yet day of she fumed until she told him to get out. She could have stepped in any time. I would assume if she didn’t step up to answer questions alongside me she didn’t know the answers/was shy/didn’t want to. It’s not his job to ensure she got face time…it’s hers! People talk big, but put in the situation, don’t always back that up. I would assume that was the situation unless proved otherwise.

      4. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I mean we basically agree. It’s on the LW (or anyone for that matter) to assert themselves. I just don’t see how she is “an entitled 80’s baby” because she thought her acedemic partner would uphold a discussion they had one night before (I’m assuming he acknowledged her desire to be an equal participant).

        Also, it’s hard to just interrupt and jump into answering a question when a dialog is going on. It could have been perceived as rude. I mean if two people where talking and she just started interjecting answers- talk about awkward. But had the guy upheld his part he could have easily said “hey LW, why don’t you tackle this question” or just made a physical gesture over to her to cue her and everyone else that she was handling the question.

      5. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        It’s not his job to toss her a question if he’s asked it and can answer it. It’s on her. It’s her part.

      6. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        It’s on her to interrupt if a question is specifically addressed to him? Now that just doesn’t make any sense.

      7. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        To step up and say this was my area on the paper, I’ll take this one? YES! He was presented as the author so naturally people are going to focus their questions to him and if she wanted to answer some, SHE needed to step it up.

      8. Yeah, I’m with you. Regardless of what she told him about splitting things, when the time comes—sometimes the flow doesn’t allow for that. Why should it be his job to discern what questions he should answer, & what questions should be directed to her? What if, okay, he DID turn over a question to her—& she didn’t know the answer? Awkward for all. If there was something she was able to answer, smoothly jumping in was the best option for everyone.

        Also, about the 80s baby entitlement thing…it’s not the fact that she wasn’t assertive or anything, really— it’s more the way she’s wallowing in impotent anger & how her next step is to…go to the advisor? Instead of taking this as a lesson of What Not To Do in the future.?

      9. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I mean but who wouldn’t be pissed, for at least some period of time an hour/day/month, when someone doesn’t follow through on a conversation that was had? The ownus is on her since she should have taken what she wanted, but wouldn’t everyone be a little pissed? I don’t see how that is being “entitled”.

        And the advisor thing could just be a question- I mean it’s hard to know if it’s the right time to bring an issue up to your boss. Especially when you’re in a new progam/job.

      10. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        Well she made no move to show that she wanted to answer questions and take care of her half until she told him to leave. For all he knew, she backed out and didn’t want to take her half since she made no move to do so! And tattling on something like that…SERIOUSLY?! I don’t understand how that would even be a question.

      11. kerrycontrary says:

        I can’t even comment on the 80s babies bullshit. Already had this discussion. This LW made a common mistake that many women, or basically anyone in their 20s with a job, makes. She’ll learn her lesson. No big deal.

      12. I completely agree with you and I think the “80’s lecture” is rude. It’s rude to make generalizations about a group of people every time an individual from that group decides to come forward for advice. (Read: She’s coming forward to all of you because she wants advice and perspective. Let’s keep this a safe space for people regardless of age). Criticizing someone because they were a part of a 20 year age group [80’s,90’s,2000’s] facilitates an anti-Gen Y environment here and is completely unproductive.

        The LW will learning NOTHING being criticized for triggered angry feelings about a demographic. If you want to help, just talk about tips and suggestions on being successful. Wendy was a great example of this and really went out of her away to inform the LW. This is positive. This is supportive. This is the kind of community we need to establish here. This is especially if we want women like Wendy to continue having success, since frankly anti-Gen Y sentiment only scares away potential readers who are curious about growing with Wendy too.

        It’s extremely offensive for me to hear these criticisms, because I am a part of the Gen Y, and I work my ass off. I am a Resident Assistant at Rutgers University, putting hours into my community as well as collaborating with Residence Life and Housing. I am interning as a premiere women’s advocacy group because I am passionate about public service and I understand that professional experience is required for long term career development. I was recently accepted into a prestigious post-baccalaureate program specifically designed to help me get a phD, and I have yet to attain my undergraduate degree. I also volunteer as a Grantwriter for a local NYC non-profit.

        I want you all to know this because you need to know that we are working hard. Gen Y is like any generation, we don’t know and we’re navigating the same way you did or are. So please, a little consideration.

    3. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. The entitled 80’s babies stuff has been well written about and well documented, even if you don’t “believe in it”. Anyone in her field with 10-20 years experience on her would make the 80s comment too.

      It’s honestly just sad to see someone else fulfilling the stereotype. As my boss likes to say, “this is good for the 80s babies”.

      1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        It wasn’t 100% directed at you katie. It just annoys me in general. IMO children born in the 90’s and 00’s (or what ever we call that) have an even bigger sense of entitlement etc. We don’t have to reopen this whole conversation, I just don’t find her year of birth relevant here. Honestly we have no idea how old she is- I know plenty of graduate students who were born before 1980.

        What I’m trying to say is that she made a rookie mistake. Everyone does it. Even people born in 1940 or 1970 or 2000- everyone makes rookie mistakes. She should have asserted herself more and fielded an equal share of questions- we all agree on that. Even if it meant intterupting, fine she should have stepped up and gotten her share/recognition. BUT it’s a really common mistake (to assume people will hold your hand/uphold agreements when they have no benefit to them) when starting out in any field and has happened FOREVER. Lesson learned, now move on and don’t let yourself get into that situation again.

      2. kerrycontrary says:

        Agree with you GG. It most likely is an individual problem and an individual lesson to be learned, has nothing to do with her age or generation.

      3. kerrycontrary says:

        “fulfilling the stereotype” So if I see a black person doing something “stereotypical” I can just so “oh, just another black lady fulfilling the stereotype”? No. It’s not OK (in my mind) to classify people on their age, race, or gender. Which is what you just did. You put her into a little category because of her assumed age. When, like GG said, she made a common mistake. Which is probably more caused by her inexperience and personal background than her generational influence.

        And as someone who just spent hours doing real research on millenials (business librarian here), a lot of what is “written about” in places such as the Huffington Post or NYT on millennials has no real research behind it. Read some scholarly articles and you will find that millenials are more similar to those who came of age during the great depression (so their grandparents) than any other generation.

      4. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        love this.

      5. LuckySeven says:

        Love this as well. Before people were taught better, back in the day (and unfortunately sometimes now), there would be articles/ “ethnographic studies” with no substance and fulfilling the stereotype. I’m idealistic, but I would much rather live in a world where we don’t stereotype people/ generalize such a huge demographic on one person.

        The girl made a rookie mistake, quickly asserted herself after five questions, and wrote in for advice to see if she made a mistake. Doesn’t seem too entitled to me.

      6. To me, entitlement is more about expecting to get things without doing any work, like thinking you deserve a raise while doing subpar work or that you should get a promotion simply by showing up. The LW clearly did the work and attempted to stake her claim on the presentation. Doing research and putting together a presentation and then expecting to get credit for it isn’t entitlement. It’s naivete and a lack of assertiveness. That’s a problem for women that goes way back, and one I’d say has probably decreased some in the current generation.

      7. just so everyone understands, im not advocating for this stereotype to be *true*, im just advocating that this stereotype *exists*. if she goes to her advisor and complains about this, as others have pointed out is a terrible idea, this stereotype is going to be the first thing that pops into the advisor’s head. it just is. and you know what? if she isnt the correct age, instead of the 80’s baby stereotype, she is going to get the “weak woman in the workforce” stereotype. it doesnt mean any of them are correct. but when people act like this, it just furthers whatever stereotype fits. yes, when black people act in a stereotypical way, the people who believe in those stereotypes just believe them harder. thats just the way the world is.

        its unfair. sure. but isnt that the entire point of this? the world isnt fair. if you do x, you might get labeled y. if this lady complains and tattles, i would almost guarantee her adviser would just chalk it up to the entitlement of younger generations. its a bad idea. its not a good behavior. so she should stop it/not do it. and she should definitely understand the consequences if she proceeds. she should definitely also understand how she comes off, as there were multiple people on here, me included, who automatically thought of the 80’s babies, and how she fits in so well. if she doesnt like that fact, she can change her behavior.

  10. anonymous says:

    Not to be mean after your “generosity” but … wow. This letter just reeks of immaturity. I get it — you’re only in your 20s, right? You’ll learn the way to balance assertiveness while not being unkind. Right now? He’s probably thinking you’re a complete b**** and is wondering what in the world your problem is.

    No — you do NOT go to your advisor. You reflect on YOUR mistakes not on HIS perceived perfidy, and you decide how to make sure that your work gets equal time.

    And I know that some places have instituted the one-author rule, but as a side note — that’s crazy. There are times it might be worth asking the committee at the outset what the goal of the rule is, and to find a way to circumvent. He could present, you could field questions. Or vice-versa.

    Side note: it’s better to be listed as the primary (or sole) author than to field questions. Every time. Because apart from the face time, your name is in print AND you can claim it on your resume for the next 50 years.

  11. LW , never wait to be invited to answer questions. Grad school isn’t grade school, you can’t just divide things by two.
    It was a poster session, right? You should be right there next to your coworker, making eye contact, introducing yourself to people, being a part of a conversation. Scientific discussions can contain more than two people! Plus, he left after speaking with 5 people? How many people came by after that? In a normal poster session, over a couple hours, I would expect several dozen, at least. Were you the face of the presentation the rest of the night? Did you give your colleague the verbal credit he deserved for his part of the work? Sounds like you split the time after all.
    FYI you didn’t “give” your colleague anything – you charged him for it, with the cost being all this drama. There is a lot of sexism in science, but this isn’t it, and you aren’t going to do yourself any favors by freaking out over this any further.

    1. “Grad school isn’t grade school, you can’t just divide things by two.”

      “…you didn’t “give” your colleague anything – you charged him for it, with the cost being all this drama.”

      Yup, yup.

  12. sarolabelle says:

    I’ve had this happen so many times (I am in IT – I think 10% of the IT force is female). I seriously just stopped thinking about things. Everything is out for themselves. You too. Would you have “been nice
    and given your colleague a chance to spear if you had a chance to shine?

  13. After you read all this and brush off your bumps and bruises on your ego, get a glass of red wine and go read this all night:


    And then remember, you gotta speak up and be assertive. We’re socialized to be gracious and let the boys go first. Don’t make that mistake in your career again.

  14. EngineeringLadyPhDStudent says:

    This really speaks to your need to talk to your advisor, NOT about your officemate’s behavior at the conference, but about your group’s collaboration and authorship policy. If you author another paper with this student, will you get first author this time? What happens if your paper is accepted to the conference, but it’s an oral presentation?

    While your officemate should have deflected questions to you, you should have clarified what you wanted- was the agreement to split time or questions? From your actions and conversation with the officemate, it’s not clear which is the case. Rather than say “we should split time or questions,” say “I’m comfortable with you being first author because you’re the senior student. Since we put equal time into this work, we should split the poster time in half. Do you want to take first or second shift?” Make your expectations completely known, rather than a vague “We should do X or Y.” It will lead to less confusion and hurt feelings in the future.

  15. I’m also a grad student and have a hard time being assertive, so I understand where the LW is coming from. I hate potentially causing conflict – I can see why the LW stood aside fuming at the conference (although I do agree that she should have said something). A year or so ago this letter could have come from me.
    I’ve had to work to build up the self confidence academically to realize that I also deserve the kind of recognition that the LW gave away. I’ve also had to learn (and am still learning) to never give up that kind of spot. I was recently at a conference where I was the co-author of a paper. After networking with a few people at the conference I realized that I was underselling myself. If anyone asked me if I had a paper at the conference I would say, “Yes, but I’m just a co-author.” I recognized what I was doing and started answering that question with just “yes”.
    LW, in the future, if the speaker’s spot or anything like that is offered to you, take it with no apologies. Your colleague would have (and he did).

  16. Eagle Eye says:

    So, my boyfriend is a science grad student, and, honestly, just about as feminist as they come (without actually really thinking about it) but he would never have handed off questions to another student. In fact, he probably would have figured that if you really wanted to make it in science you would have joined in the conversation, added something that you thought was relevant that the he had somehow managed to miss. By not doing that actually, your fellow grad student probably thinks less of you as a result, probably thinks that you don’t actually understand the science of your paper, which is why he treated you so dismissively.

    Don’t tell you PI about it, you’re PI is probably super busy and doesn’t really give a shit

    Also, this is not the end of the world, like Wendy said, this is a good learning experience. Academia, as a field, is pretty cut throat and nasty (I’m in in the Humanities) you need to learn how to effectively advocate for yourself if you would like to become a prof some day yourself.

    1. Eagle Eye says:

      oh crap, your not you’re – man, so much for grammar for me today…

    2. Eagle Eye says:

      Also, I should add, that spending time with my boyfriend’s assertiveness and ego when it comes to his professional life has been a really great experience for me. I’ve become tougher and more assertive in my own academics and I’ve learned to go for things based on just my own baseless confidence which has actually led to me getting opportunities that I wouldn’t have received otherwise. I’m not a bitch, I just spend all of my time thinking that I’m the best and most qualified person for the job/ teaching fellowship/ conference, whatever…

  17. Lemongrass says:

    I wonder if the lw is an only child. My siblings definitely prepared me to deal with coworkers!

  18. mmmCheesy says:

    Sorry, but your colleague didn’t do anything wrong here. Its not up to him to deflect questions to you. And if he is the “presenting author” at your poster session or whatever, I can’t blame the other attendees for asking the questions of him. While it would be nice if he went out of his way to include you in discussions, I don’t think he is in the wrong for not doing it. He probably got caught up in the moment, and you would probably do the same if you were in the same position.

    Take this as a lesson learned and next time, do your best to not co-author with anyone. Present your own research, have your own poster. If you have to co-author, stay right by the other’s side and don’t hesitate to jump in to answer questions, even if you think it seems pushy.

    In the real world, no one is going to hand you anything. You’ve got to fight and work and claw your way to what you want on your own. Everyone else, including your colleague, is doing it, so if you want to keep up, you are going to have to do it too. Its not easy for folks that are a little more reserved, but its necessary to get anywhere you want to go. Everyone else it watching out for themselves, its time you started doing it too.

  19. I am a female graduate student in a hard science, and I cannot warn you enough to NOT tell your PI about this. No PI I’ve ever met will be interested in hearing about this petty bullshit. It’s lose-lose: you’re not going to get what you want, and your PI’s estimation of you will go down. You can’t tattle and think it won’t affect the way others think of you – and make no mistake, tattling is EXACTLY what you’re considering doing. The only times it is acceptable to tattle is when someone is misrepresenting their research, falsifying data, mistreating animals, or misusing funds. And why are you so hung up on an apology? You made your feelings known to your co-worker, now get over it. If he’s truly as awful as you say, nothing you or anyone else can say will make him realize why what he’s done was wrong to you (I’m not conceding that it was objectively wrong, just that you are obviously hurt by it).

    I don’t think you’re an entitled 80s baby though. I have no idea where people got that from, and it’s condescending and mean to you. You’ll learn from this and give the appropriate amount of generosity in the future.

    1. Eagle Eye says:

      This. Yes. Like 1000x

    2. Avatar photo HuggaWugga says:

      As someone who was in a lab with a “problem labmate”, I definitely sympathize with wanting to tell the PI. But I agree, that the only times that should be done are the above situations, or when productivity in the lab is being severely affected. My advisor didn’t realize that our lab had become a negative place until two of my coworkers had a screaming match because one person wasn’t pulling his weight on a project (I was the diplomat of the bunch and tried to keep a level head).

      LW, if you’re really feeling bothered by this, have you checked with your university for some short-term employment-based counseling? I did it for a few months when the situation in the lab just became too much. It really helped, and it gave me some great strategies for dealing with conflict with my coworkers. And if it helps, this is something I probably would have done in my first few years of grad school, too. I expected everyone to be as helpful and generous as I was–as nice as that is, it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s up to you to sell yourself and your work, so don’t give away opportunities if you don’t have to!

    3. Grilledcheesecalliope says:

      This is good advice, and I agree calling the LW an entitled 80s baby is stupid. It’s not entitlement to want people to be decent.

      1. Right? I feel like it’s naive, but not necessarily entitled.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        OKay…I’m glad other people agree. I was very confused by those saying it was.

      3. Haha, but I’m an 80s baby, so what do I know? 😉

      4. Yeah, if anything, she GAVE someone else presenting author status for equal work, thinking that it’d be a title only. That does not scream entitlement at all. Entitlement would if she had contributed very little and still expected to co-author or be presenting author. “80s baby” has become such a stupid, meaningless phrase to throw around just to put people in their place. It’s a pet peeve of mine when people say “80s baby” because it has this ring of superiority to it.

      5. Maybe entitlement because she thought things would magically fall into place around her? I tend to agree though – short-sighted or naive would be better suited for her actions.

      6. I don’t think she magically thought things would fall into place. She just didn’t horse-trade successfully because her senior colleague is a dick. It happens, and soon she’ll realize she also has to be a dick if she wants to make it in science, but she’s still at the stage where all the warm-fuzzy bullshit the profs are spouting about collaboration still sounds nice and realistic to her.

      7. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        I don’t see how he was a dick…she offered to let him take the first name…he didn’t brow beat her for it. She didn’t step up and assert herself…it’s not his responsibility to make sure she’s comfortable and able to answer questions and introduced to everyone…that’s not how it works!

      8. What? Him having his name before mine on the abstract did not in ANY way suggest I was conceding presenting my own work. They would not ALLOW two first authors – it was denoted on the poster that we are equal authors, but obviously we could not put our names on top of eachother.

        I expected nothing from him, we had an agreement which was broken. My only mistake was trusting him and not EXPECTING my friend to be a dick.

      9. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        You offered to let him present…I apologize on the mix-up there, but he didn’t force you to. You CHOSE to let that happen without figuring out any other way of deciding who go to present. You relinquished that. That’s on you.

      10. oh lord. Presenting author does not mean he is the only one that presents the poster. Its a stupid formality for the catalog of abstracts… I was to stand by OUR poster and talk about OUR work in a manner completely equal to him. We agreed to share the time and he broke his word.

      11. Sorry, but “presenting author” means “presenting author”. If people walk up to the poster, they are more likely to approach the person whose name is first/has the asterisk. Should he have punted some questions your way in order to include your further in the discussion? Probably. But the fact of the matter is that when people see a name listed first, they will assume that person is the one they should be talking to.

      12. And please don’t think I’m trying to be rude about this, I just think you’re sounding a bit naive. There’s a reason why long discussions/arguments happen when it comes to the order of authors in publications.

      13. She did let him take presenting author listing, due to his seniority. She also brokered an agreement with him whereby, although he would be looked upon as the presenting author due to the constrictions of the listings, they would make it clear that they were co-authors to any questioners. She did give him some leeway by which he could shunt her to the background, trusting that he would be as fair as she had been, and that was a mistake. But it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a dick.

      14. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        I’m still confused if any specifics were said in the “agreement”…and overall, she didn’t assert herself and that’s on her. Doesn’t mean he was a dick. I’m not convinced that that’s true.

      15. That’s OK. I agree that she should’ve asserted herself, but I don’t think we need to agree on every aspect of this; some things, we’re just going to infer and there’s no way to know the nuances unless we were there.

  20. Yeah, pretty much agreeing with what everyone else said. Don’t talk to your advisor about him. The time to talk to your advisor would have been *before* this all started, to discuss how to negotiate authorship. You don’t just hand over first author and expect the other person to be nice to you because of it. And OF COURSE everyone was directing their questions towards him at the poster session – he’s the first author! If you wanted to be included in the discussion, you had to insert yourself. Sorry, LW, I know it’s hard to be assertive, I know this from experience, but it’s part of the deal.

  21. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

    I agree with everyone that you shouldn’t have “graciously” given the first presenter title or whatever to your fellow student. There’s no reason to be gracious unless you think it would reflect very badly on you with your higher-ups. I don’t know, it could be some type of unofficial policy at your school, in which case making waves might not help you. Otherwise, you are equally entitled to such a title, and you should fight for it. I have a late birthday, so everyone has always been older to me. Since that doesn’t mean smarter than me, I’ve never thought age should factor in whether someone should get something. If I’m better, I’m better. And I get the feeling that you think you’re better.

    I disagree that you didn’t stand up for yourself. You did. You told him, hopefully in a professional way, that it was your turn, and then you fielded the rest of the questions. So why are you still bothered? Because you think he should have been gracious back? Well, this isn’t just career advice, but life advice. It is a waste of time to expect some type of goodwill back from people who you give things too. For your own piece of mind the only thing you should expect from people is gratitude/thanks. Then if they don’t do something in return, you’re not emotionally caught up with it. If they do, it’s a nice surprise. If you want something in return for kindness, then be upfront about it. You aren’t gifting anything, you want to trade, and you should present it that way. If you don’t think you could bear the resentment, if someone does not return your kindness, don’t give things to people.

    Part of me feels like you were upset that you had to share at all, and you brought this attitude to everything you did with this student. Well, complaining to your adviser will only make sure people will go without you, not the other way around.

  22. I’m also a grad student. I can definitely empathize with you – I’ve been treated unfairly a bunch of times and it sucks. I believe you were a little naive, but it also sounds like you were taken advantage of, so I disagree with those who said it’s just your own fault. That was likely one of your first conference experiences, so it’s not like it was to be expected that you would know exactly how to handle a situation like this. (Find someone to vent with, it’s important to keep your sanity!) I agree that this is the way the academic world works, though. Doesn’t mean that it’s fair (it’s not), but you have to find a strategy to deal with it if you want to be successful. My own strategy is to be nice, but firm. I wouldn’t do anything unethical to get an advantage (I’m not going to compromise my own integrity because other people are ***holes), but I do defend myself/speak up when someone else is being unfair to me. You have to do it right at the moment when it happens, in an assertive way. So, in the situation with your colleague, I would just have inserted myself into the conversation and said “Let me answer this question, since I am a co-author of this paper”. Or something along those lines. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You can’t really do anything after the fact because it will seem petty and work against you.
    In dealing with colleagues, I distinguish between those who I consider friends and those who are really just that – colleagues. It’s tricky sometimes because the lines are blurred, but with a lot of people I’m friendly, but I don’t really trust them. They’re just colleagues. Your co-author belongs in that category. Deal with him in a strategic way. You’ll probably need him over the next few years, so I’d stop being angry at him and collaborate with him, but don’t trust with him sensitive information. Understand that his actions were not directed against you as a person, he was just looking out for his own interest and disregarded yours in the process.

    And just a general point about academia: I want to stay human, and so I keep an optimistic outlook, but you have to accept that some people play foul and you need to deal with them in an appropriate manner. It’s sad, but DON’T expect fairness. As a woman in particular, being glossed over is par for the course. I hate this aspect of my work, but I can’t drive myself crazy over it, so I tell myself “let ***holes be ***holes” and lean in even more.

    1. And regarding the situation with your colleague right now, just do nothing. Drop the matter, don’t talk to him about it anymore, don’t give him any explanation for not going to the supervisor after all. Complete silence unless he asks, in which case you can say something like “Oh, you know I was little mad about this but it’s not that important really”.

    2. anonymous says:

      Yes, but he was also presumably new to the whole situation as well. You can’t exactly expect *him* to know how she wants questions handed to her…on a silver platter with watercress around them?

      I think it really points to inexperience on both their parts, but the only part she can control is hers. And it does sound from what she said as though she let emotions get the better of her. I mean, mad about it? Three weeks later? Sounds pretty emotional to me.

      1. I’m giving the LW the benefit of the doubt that the colleague was indeed acting unfairly. Sometimes these situations are easy to interpret when you’re actually there and when you describe them it sounds kind of unclear. Anyway, it would have been super easy for him to include her after all, and it’s the logical thing to do if you’re co-authors and your colleague has generously let you be “presenting author”. I’m in academia, too, and I would definitely have done that if I had been the LW’s colleague. I mean if the LW’s colleague had written to Wendy describing the situation most people probably would have said “gosh, why didn’t you include her in the conversation at all?”

      2. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        But she didn’t make efforts to include herself. I would say what I’ve said up thread…If I was him, I would wonder if she was nervous, didn’t know answers, etc. and that’s why she wasn’t stepping up. PLUS he had to think about himself…answering correctly, being personable…it’s hard enough to make sure you sound competent without having to worry about someone perfectly capable of stepping in when she was ready.

      3. “Well, actually, I did that experiment, so I can explain it better than John…” sounds ugly and pushy when John’s trying to answer the question. On the other hand, “Here’s the co-author, Lisa; she handled that side of the experiments, so I’ll let her expand on that,” is gracious and decent.

      4. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        No one said she had to sound bitchy, there are other ways to slide in without throwing the co-author under the bus. She could have stepped up after the question, “hey John, I’ll take this one. Hi, I’m Lisa, the co-author of this presentation….”

      5. It’s awkward and, again, pushy to talk over someone if they’ve already started to respond. If there was a chance for her to jump in, she definitely should’ve taken it, but I’m not convinced that there was.

      6. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        There’s no evidence either way, but because he left when she asked him and it didn’t seem like she tried to jump in, I can’t call him a dick.

      7. OK! Like I said above, I think those nuances are going to be left to each of our interpretation.

  23. Bittergaymark says:

    Hah. The only interesting thing about this thread is the 80s baby debate. And you must all know where I come down on that issue… 😉 At any rate, if this poor, feeble minded LW truly thought that THIS was cut throat? Hah! She us really in the wrong field… Talk about being twenty going on eight. Yikes…

  24. Thought I’d clear a few things up. The questions about the work were general – most people walked directly up to him, without even glancing at me. At no point was any question specifically about my part in the work, we both could speak equally well about the research approach. Interrupting a conversation would have been very pushy and rude. Furthermore, very few of the hundreds of posters had two first authors, making my presence unexpected. Maybe I should have worn heels? Just because I was not noticed does not mean that I was a shrinking violet. There were many posters, I was only able to field one question after I asked him to leave.

    I’d also like to add this person was more than a colleague, but a close friend at school who I have confided in and vice-versa. Until this point we had a great and very non-competitive relationship. Though I can only blame myself for being naive, my guard was down because in the previous hour we were laughing and joking as friends. I don’t think expecting a friend to be fair and honest in fulfilling an agreement makes me entitled.

    Many of the comments are much appreciated, especially Wendy’s, of course. The only person you can trust is yourself – I forgot that for a moment. I will be sure to be assertive in the future.

    1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Yay! I love when LW’s comment. Sounds like this was a lesson learned to not co-author!!

      1. thanks GatorGirl! Unfortunately I had no choice but to be an equal contributing author. We submitted our work to the conference separately and the organizers admitted us on the condition we combine. Because they will only put one asterisk denoting a “presenting author” on a submitted abstract – we had to chose only one name though we are completely equal contributors. I obviously, won’t ever give away that “presenting author” title again.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Ugh, my fiance is in academia and I hate the conference process. Submitting proposals and all the bs that goes along with it. Schmoooozing and what not. I’m so glad I’m not in that world!

      3. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

        I really hope that isn’t the lesson she takes away from this. Coauthoring is pretty much the future—especially interdisciplinary co authoring. Science doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need other people to do research.

    2. Okay, couple words of advice, LW, from a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. You found yourself in a situation where your presence as a presenter was unexpected, you felt like no one even glanced at you and you felt that “interrupting a conversation would have been very pushy and rude. ” You’re completely incorrect. And, actually, you were a shrinking violet. In that sort of situation, speaking up wouldn’t have been “pushy and rude” it would have been joining the conversation. Instead, you just hung back waiting for an invitation. That invitation will never, ever come. Next time, step up, introduce yourself as the “co-author” and I can guarantee you that you will be included in conversation. And, it won’t be seen as being pushy, it will be seen as you asserting yourself and making your presence known in a situation in which no one expected you to be there. You failed to do that, so you were not included. Stop blaming everyone else for your mistake and making excuses for yourself. It isn’t everyone at the presentation’s fault for not noticing you. It isn’t your colleague’s fault for not introducing you or stepping aside or whatever you think he should have done. You got overlooked because you didn’t make yourself noticed. It is your fault; no one else’s. And, it’s a common mistake. Accept that you made the mistake of not stepping up, though, instead of acting like your colleague did something terrible to you, or else you will do it again.

      1. They had an agreement that they would answer questions together in some way, so yes, the colleague treated the LW unfairly. She’s not blaming everyone else for her mistakes, that’s an exaggeration. I think it’s great to remind the LW to stand up for herself, but it’s not such a great idea to question her perception of the situation competely. If you were treated unfairly & could have handled it better, it won’t help much if people then tell you that you weren’t actually treated unfairly at all.

      2. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        But it’s not like he prevented her from answering questions. AND he left when she asked him to. It seems like he followed things through more professionally than she did.

      3. Yeah, he didn’t prevent her, but since she was the co-author, it would have been the normal thing for him to include her. I agree she should have spoken up btw, just saying that the tendency of the commenters here to say it was her fault only is strange to me.

      4. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        But it’s not like he prevented her from saying anything.

      5. I’m not disagreeing with that. He didn’t prevent her from saying anything (that would have been pretty difficult for him to do anyway). I think it was unfair of him not to actively include her after they agreed to share the questions in some way and she let him be presenting author, so that naturally everybody would be talking to him. It’s just common courtesy & the right thing to do in that situation.

      6. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        Also the right thing to do: stepping up and asserting yourself and NOT demanding that he leave…that’s just ridiculous.

      7. Yep, two wrongs don’t make a right.

      8. Nobody treated the LW unfairly, and she is going to have a long and unhappy career if she doesn’t learn to accept responsibility for her own career and speak up. When the “agreement” – whatever it was – didn’t pan out while she was there, she should have taken the bull by the horns and stood up for herself. Blaming her silence on other people or being treated unfairly doesn’t help her career in the long run. Encouraging her to look past the “unfairness” of it all and accept responsibility for promoting her own career does.

        Honestly, after reading all of the LW’s updates, I’d really encourage the LW to find a trusted mentor (of either gender). She needs one badly.

      9. It’s possible that it’s both true that she was treated unfairly and that she should have spoken up.

      10. The way the LW keeps talking about it being unfair and what a dick her colleague was is just justifying her failure to speak up, though. It doesn’t really matter what he did in the long run or what agreement he didn’t keep. What matters is what she didn’t do when the situation happened while she was standing right there. That’s her real problem, not her colleague.

      11. I got the impression that she’s genuinely upset over what he did because she considered him a friend. That’s not looking for a justification for her own behavior only. But you’re right, he doesn’t matter, it matters how she deals with it. I’m all for her encouraging her to be more assertive in the future. I’m insisting on not erasing the unfairness because I’ve seen similar scenarios play out a few times. It seems like people can’t say “stand up for yourself!” without implying that you never get to feel treated unfairly if you are a stand-up-for-yourself kind of person. I’ve stood up for myself plenty of times but I don’t think it means I never get to acknowledge when I’m treated unfairly.

      12. You’re sabotaging yourself here by thinking of inserting yourself into a conversation as “pushy and rude” when it could just as easily be termed “assertive”.

    3. If you had been an attendee, where would you have looked for an answer…the author, right? It would seem a bit contrived and, frankly, silly for your colleague to answer every question with, “Well, I’ll let x handle this one…” If there were a few co-authored papers, why couldn’t yours have been one? Forcing yourself to be noticed with clothing or heels once again is ineffective…why not simply (losing the co-authorship, which is the best choice, of course) ask him ahead of time to announce that, as co-author, you will be handling the oral section of the paper?

      Here is my stereotype: men tend to be direct and unemotional about this stuff. If you clearly agreed on expectations ahead of time, it is a simple matter of, “hey, what gives? You agreed to xyz.” No good answer from him? He is a manipulative jerk, lesson learned. That is on him.

      Based on what you say in your letter, you didn’t have an explicit agreement. You may have said in vague terms what you wanted. However, you do not state how he responded. Or exactly how you proposed to handle ensuring joint face time. You said you wanted it…great. But not explicitly… “hey, you take first shift, I’ll take second.” Or, “It would probably work best if you pass questions my direction in this manner, unless you have another idea we can consider.”

      I suspect from his perspective, what he saw was a formerly sane colleague who went off on a b…. parade for no apparent reason, leaving him wondering, “What the f… was THAT about?” for the next two days. And then to fume for two weeks? Geez, get over it already. If you don’t like what happened, make sure you learn from it rather than just getting pissed off about it and focusing on him.

      Side note, I had the converse of that experience once, and it was a beautiful thing. A sales guy had called me into a client’s office for some technical work. Every question I asked, the client directed an answer to my sales colleague. After this happening for a few minutes, the colleague said, “hey, I don’t know beans about this technical stuff, but I can make copies. How about if I take off and copy these documents while you guys chat?” Brilliant solution that I will never forget.

    4. Okay LW, you’re clearly reading along with the comments, so I have to ask—why are you still not taking any responsibility for being ignored? Why are you wondering if you should’ve worn heels? Nobody mentioned your possible attire. HOWEVER, most people said it would’ve been good to speak up?

      Please, please, please, for your own sake…lose the idea that introducing yourself would’ve somehow been rude or pushy. The problem isn’t your shoes. It’s the way you didn’t say anything.

      Alsooo, not to pile on with more shit, I see you’re still feeling betrayed? (“my guard was down…we were laughing and joking as friends…”) Why are you guys not friendly anymore? All this guy did was answer questions directed to him. Look, you felt odd speaking out, right? Try imagine that he felt the same. He probably felt odd, in the bustle of everything, being like, “Actually, my CO-AUTHOR here can answer your super general question! Here she is!” you know? So, try to view things with that perspective instead of feeling backstabbed.

      1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I took the heels comment as a joke, personally.

        And do you have any experiance in the LWs field? Because you (not just you Fabelle, everyone who is holding this same opinion) really have no idea what is or is not acceptable in terms of interjecting yourself into a conversation. Academia is a funny place with every program, university, conference having a different “normal”. There is a lot of BS social rules in many programs, which probably come into play in this situation. Interrupting very well could have been rude and pushy and done more of a disservice to the LWs academic career in the long term than being a wallflower at this one event.

      2. I worked several years in industry and had many experiences dealing with competitive coworkers… but none that were ever close friends, which is why I need to raise my bar for trustworthiness.

      3. “Why are you wondering if you should’ve worn heels? ”

        I am very short! Meant to be a joke… I didn’t mean it to imply that sex appeal would have gotten me attention, I really think people miss me beneath their eyeline sometimes.

        I am feeling betrayed! I think we all have personal standards of friendship and he simply doesn’t meet mine anymore. Competition and friendship don’t mix, in my eyes. I don’t see why my willingness to rekindle the friendship should be up for debate.

      4. Agh, look—I brought up the heels thing because, lighthearted musing or not, it seemed like you still focusing on external factors.

        Same thing with my mention of the friendship. I’m not debating the fact that you don’t want to be friends with this guy anymore, per se. I just meant, again, to re-direct you. It might help YOU (not the friendship, which you don’t want to have anymore. Which is fine!) to see his “betrayal” in a different light.

      5. seemed like you *WERE still, sorry for the typo.

      6. LuckySeven says:

        I took the wondering about heels as a joke.

        LW, I’m glad that you wrote in, are reading the comments, even the negative ones, and taking in the feedback with stride. Personally, I can see where you are coming from; some people were raised not to interrupt. I was taught strict manners growing up and never to interrupt, so I would have had just as a hard time as you!

        I agree with reading more and getting a mentor. Also, I hate to say this, but you are right competition and friendship do not mix. You two can be cordial, sure, but it’s understandable that you need some space. Try and think of it as maybe he did not mean to offend you, and just consider this a lesson learned.

      7. I’ve had the experience of dealing with colleagues like LW and being blazing pissed afterwards they sat there like a lump leaving me to deal with everything! I’m an introvert, but not shy, so while I’m good at that it’s exhausting for me. Then they want me to deflect and introduce them and I’m like wtf shall I hold your dick while you pee too?!

    5. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      NEWSFLASH: If you (seemingly) deliberately set yourself to to be ignored — you’d best be prepared to speak the heck up. Frankly, you come across even dimmer here than you did in your original letter. Seriously, stop expecting the world to politely ask for your precious fucking input. Trust me, the world won’t ever do that. It never, ever does. And so — if you want credit for your fucking work — demand co-authorship. It’s really not rocket science. When did academia start admitting such dimwits?

    6. Based on your clarification, I think there are two issues here. One is how you can be more assertive in a professional environment & another how you’ll handle this with your friend/colleague in particular. Regarding the first, I still think you could have and should have interrupted your colleague’s conversation at some point. It may have been a bit awkward, yes, but standing there fuming is simply no alternative. Regarding the second issue, I’m going to assume for the moment that your friend really was being unfair to you by not actively including you in answering the questions. People are doubting this, saying “how would he know that you wanted to answer a question?”, but I’ll take your word for it that it was clear that he was violating your agreement about handling the questions. If that’s the case, then either talk to him again once you’ve entirely calmed down or reconsider this friendship. If you do the latter I would still not start some sort of war with him though, it’s not worth it.

    7. Hi, I’m a young professional in an engineering field that is very male dominated and I also find myself not only in meetings with just males but also with males much older than me. The best advice I have is look professional and look (and feel) competant. Fake confidence going into a situation if you don’t have it. People respond to your body language. When they’re walking up to the booth, approach them before they have a chance to approach your colleague. That puts you in the position of power. If you can’t catch them then, listen in and try to add in an insightful comment after they finish talking with your colleague. If something naturally comes up in the conversation, speak up before someone else can. It takes practice to get the timing right but you’ll get there if you work at it.

      I perfectly understand your frustration. I had a meeting several months ago where a coworker came along. Now I was the more knowlegable one about the particular subject that the meeting was about but he was more familiar with the client, projected more confidence than me, and well, was a 6+ foot male. I could barely get a word in edgewise in the meeting and when I could, they immediately directed their attention back to him, because in their minds, he had the authority. What I did end up doing was talking to everyone afterwards privately giving them more technical infromation and therefore somewhat establishing myself with them.

      Was the situation ideal? No. What I should have done was walk in with a take charge attitude and establish myself with my body language as the person in authority. As it was, I did manage some damage control at the end.

      So you’re not alone. I’ve worked hard since then to work on my presence. It’s a work in progress. Honestly, even though you’re coworker may have agreed on it, once a person has trained themselves in that situation, they don’t think about handing over the reins. That’s giving up the position of authority.

      So my advice, practice presenting an aura of authority. If you need to wear heels to make yourself look taller (and therefore show more confidence), do it. Try to do the things above. It’ll take time but you’ll get there. And remember, this is not an uncommon thing to happen. What makes the difference is taking the steps to rectify it.

    8. LW, try hard to find out how to be pushy and and rude without offending people. There is a way to do that and it will be so important for the rest of your career. Also, you are going to realize that colleagues are a different kind of friend. You are saying that this was a great networking opportunity and he took advantage of that. He is trying to network and further his career just like you. How can he pass along people that ask him a question directly? wouldn’t that be wierd and rude?

      Take this as a lesson that you are glad you learned so early in your career. You aren’t given opportunities, you take them. The world doesn’t give favors to the fair but to the bold and the aggressive.

  25. Ah yes, and I won’t be telling my advisor. I shall come back to this thread when I need a little inspiration to out-perform him in our reasearch 🙂

    1. Hey LW, it sounds like you’re just starting out in the lab. You don’t mention your project, but in my field, students don’t share 1st authorship on posters often unless they’re working on the same project. It makes me wonder if you have a defined project. I know a couple of cases where students in the same lab were working together. Inevitably, after a couple of years one student got SCREWED as in giving several years to a project then getting booted to second author. Make sure you’re a clear first, not shared author on your project.

  26. I’m not going to berate the LW for not being assertive enough. It’s a lesson you learn, and she’s learned it. Personally, I don’t see what the guy did as cutthroat. I assume that he probably expected you to jump in and answer questions, and you didn’t. It’s not his job to make sure you speak up. And if you were fuming and demanding that he leave, I can see why he’s angry at you. Like everyone said, don’t tell your adviser. He doesn’t care, and it’ll make you look bad.

    That said, just because you have to look out for yourself doesn’t make someone who does something *actually* cutthroat any less douchey. It’s like when someone steals your iPhone. You probably shouldn’t have been waving it around on a dark street, but they still STOLE your phone, and it’s still wrong.

  27. quixoticbeatnik says:

    Wendy, I just bought the kindle version of that book! I need to learn how to be more assertive, especially now when I am searching for an internship or a full-time job. Do you get commission on Kindle books? I assume you do. I just bought a Kindle Fire and some Kindle Books (all through your link) so you probably got a hefty commission from me lately.

    As for the LW, WWS. You need to be more assertive and stand up for yourself, but without being dramatic or bitchy. You still have years left to go in your program and you can’t waste any opportunity that might come your way! Especially – and I don’t know what kind of program you are in or what kind of job it will lead to – if you want a job after your program. You should read AcademicChic and Simply Bike. They sometimes talk about their academic lives on there. Good luck, and practice being assertive!

    1. pinkjellyfishy says:

      I’m hoping she gets commission from the Kindle version as well, I also bought it through the link she posted!

  28. Good grief, LW. I’m also a woman in a science grad program and I think you’re over-reacting. Maybe it works differently at your school, but at mine, which is super competitive and high profile, we are encouraged to collaborate and help our colleagues. Of course there can be disputes about things like this, but I have never once squabbled with a lab-mate about who deserves to be “first author”; it’s usually pretty apparent, or we’ve done equal shares of the work. And that poster session sounds bizarre, typically we get so many people at conferences etc coming by people’s posters that it would be an advantage to have two people to explain it. I don’t understand why you just stood there and didn’t take any initiative.
    Yes, there is sometimes sexism in grad school, but Wendy’s response was perfect. Get used to facing challenges, but don’t leap to “it’s unfair'” or “sexism!”, because no one will take you seriously. ESPECIALLY your PI. Do not whine to them.
    Also, this “me! Me! I deserve credit!” attitude that happens in science is ridiculous. Science, in my opinion, is about expanding human understanding of how the world works. It’s not about wasting time obsessing about if you’ll get credit. Be proactive to make sure you earn it, and otherwise don’t worry about it.

    1. Presenting author, not first author, tho. They did do equal shares of the work, but only one could be listed as the presenter. (Also, re: co-authors, even on a paper where there’s an asterisk and “these authors contributed equally to this work” to allegedly not have a first author, there’s some bargaining going on for whose name is going to go first-first. That paper is always going to be referenced as Smith et al., after all.)

      1. thank you – lots of confusion arising from all the author lingo, which is understandable.

    2. ” Of course there can be disputes about things like this, but I have never once squabbled with a lab-mate about who deserves to be “first author”; it’s usually pretty apparent, or we’ve done equal shares of the work.”

      Exactly…. we were equal authors yet there could only be one presenting author, so instead of “squabbling” I yielded, yet everyone is suggesting I should have fought for it.

      Getting credit was never my goal. If you read the letter, I pretty clearly stated that I wanted the networking opportunity. To expand on this: I wanted to test my knowledge by speaking with those more experienced than me and get ideas from them.

      Some of these comments are really very antagonistic….

      1. Didn’t mean to be antagonistic! I think I got caught up in the outraged tone of your letter and misjudged you a bit, plus I posted my comment before you started responding (it didn’t post til later though).
        Ok, so. I also didn’t mean to imply you were “squabbling”, necessarily, but I was really concerned by the “talking with my PI” about it comment. I know that would not be taken well by an advisor. I was trying to make a general comment that I know those things happen, but I’ve never personally experienced it and think it can be avoided. Also, the fact that you demanded that your colleague leave seemed a little extreme. However. I’m glad you cleared up the author thing above, I definitely glanced over that in your original letter, and it seemed strange to me that you would have been asked to combine your work. Every conference I’ve been to, my lab members and I have all submitted different abstracts, no matter how similar the work. It might just be the nature of different fields, though.

        Anyway, I do think if it made you uncomfortable/you wanted the opportunity to do the presenting, you shouldn’t have “yielded”, but instead maybe let your advisor make the call.

        My comment about people clamoring for credit maybe could have been written better; I do feel that of COURSE we should get credit for what we do, but it shouldn’t be the driving force for why we do it. I was also mentioning that because I understand that you’re encountering that bad attitude all the time in science, and I know it’s frustrating. I definitely don’t think that was your attitude, but going to your PI to complain and fuming at your colleague for 3 more years might make it seem that way.
        Good luck with everything!

    3. The attitude may be ridiculous in terms of the overarching goal of science, but how does one get ahead in a career if they cannot point to accomplishments as their own?

      1. Well, if you’re doing the work equally, you are able to point to your accomplishments, right? By being acknowledged as the co-author, etc. In this case I think it’s weird because of the co-poster author/co-presenter thing.
        I didn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever push for taking credit when it is earned, just that I hate how some people get caught up in that ruthless atmosphere. I’ve definitely encountered people who are motivated just because they want to be “better” than their colleagues, who seem like they are not driven because they love the science.

      2. Oh, I’ve definitely known people like that too, and I think it’s a shame. The reason I mentioned it is because some people seem to think she feels “entitled” because she wanted to be acknowledged, which is not really the case. I mean, if you did half the work, you are entitled to half the credit. This weird co-author (but not collaborator?) situation seems trickier than normal. I see you were mostly against speaking up to her advisor about it, which I agreed would be a bad idea, and it seems she has realized that as well.

  29. This is an interesting debate among career women- on the one hand you want to take responsibility for your career and live in the real world and deal with the workplace as it is, but on the other hand, is the long term answer that we all act like men? Is the ideal really a world where people lie to each other and manipulate them and behave aggressively? I’m of the opinion that you can get ahead and be moral and kind and have a backbone.

    1. I don’t think anyone is telling her, or anyone, to be manipulative and pushy and rude. There are ways to assert yourself without being any of those things. In fact, I work in a mostly male dominated field – engineering. The women who thrive know how to go after what they want, but are still women. And these are women with children. Women I look up to. They also work hard and don’t expect things to be handed to them.

      1. See my last line- I agree with you. I also really admire successful women in my industry. But I also see my fair share of people attain success because they are cutthroat and frankly, not very moral people. I think success is great but not at any cost. And I think if this guy lied to her and said he would do something that he didn’t, she should completely shrug it off as “that’s the way business goes”. It doesn’t always go like that, and saying that is a disservice to the many men and women who get ahead without cutting other people down.

      2. should = shouldn’t

      3. See, I guess I don’t see it as him stabbing her in the back. I see it as the LW giving him a free pass by telling him that he can be author and then not trying to interject himself in the conversation. Maybe he should have tried more, but in the heat of the moment, or if the questions really were simple, I could see him just answering them. I probably would have too, and this is coming from someone who like to make sure everyone is happy.

      4. *herself in the converstaion. Dang it.

    2. “is the long term answer that we all act like men?”

      THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS!!! I almost posted it earlier but didn’t have time to elaborate. That’s a very 80’s take on feminism – that to be equal to men, we must emulate men. Think pantsuits with shoulderpads.

      I see both sides – just last week I was counseling my own coworkers on writing and, since 90% of them are female, I brought up the whole “we are conditioned to pad our language with niceties that men wouldn’t use” thing. I get it.

      But I don’t agree with the idea that a woman’s success hinges on how much she sacrifices her feminine identity. We hold enough sway in the business world, can’t we make it hospitable to both sexes instead of continuing to subject ourselves to the patriarchal model?

      1. If being an egoistic asshat is the way “men act”, then not even men should act like men.

      2. ele4phant says:

        Well my answe to that is that assertiveness and confidence is not a male trait. Women shouldn’t think that they are acting like men by being confident, assertive, or promoting their own self interest.

    3. mmmCheesy says:

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting that acting like men is the answer. Men and women alike should act the same…like confident, assertive career people. Its really not gender specific.

      The ideal world isn’t one where people lie and manipulate each other, but it does happen, and being a successful career person means you have to recognize this as a possibility and be prepared for it. In my own personal career, I always act with integrity, as it is an important part of my character. But I certainly never expect it from anyone else, as sad as that may be. I usually take a “hope for the best, expect the worst” attitude when it comes to dealing with others.

      I still don’t think this LW mentioned anything I would see as sexist, manipulative, or anything else. For whatever reason, people were asking questions of her colleague. She should have stayed right by his side, listened intently to the questions, and act like they were being asked equally of her. She didn’t do that. She hung back and got mad. It isn’t her colleague’s job to take care of her. It’s her job to take care of her. There isn’t anything manipulative about that.

    4. I’m kind of confused by what everyone means by “acting like men,” especially because it appears to be meant in a specifically derogatory way. Either way, you can be kind and moral, but the point is that you have to pursue your own success and make sure that your voice is heard because everyone else is busy with their own careers. They aren’t agonizing over whether you’re getting what you deserve. I don’t think that’s wrong. It’s just how it is. If you want to answer questions about your research, then you should answer them. There’s no reason to think you can’t speak unless a colleague “lets” you. If that’s a men-only thing, then I definitely think that women should “act like men” in that regard.

      1. I don’t personally mean it to be derogatory when I reference “acting like a man”. But to me, everyone, men and women, having to behave like men in order to succeed is in essence the very definition of patriarchy, which I think is not good. I’m not in favor of any one sex dominating, I’m in favor of equality of genders and placing high value on both feminine and masculine moral behavior.

        I think the main point of what everyone saying is correct- the world is a brutal place and you need to take responsibility for your own successes and failures and be your own advocate. I have a problem with the implication though, that bad behavior is business as usual and it’s entirely on you for getting duped. It’s on him ALSO. I didn’t specifically respond to anyone because I didn’t see any comment that was outright saying anything I disagreed with. I just had some thoughts that I thought were related to the discussion.

      2. Said that way, I totally get where you were coming from and can get on board!

    5. only women think that behaviour is “rude” and “aggressive” because we’ve been socialized to sit down stfu and smile nicely. That’s normal expected preferred even behaviour for men, and the definition of sexism

  30. He may have stabbed you in the back – but you handed him the knife. Next time – do better. No one is interested in your success darling – just you. So if you want to succeed then act that way. And stop seething at your colleague and take responsibility that the fault of what happened rests with both of you.

    1. You Go Girl says:

      This comment is rather snarky. The LW acted in good faith, and her colleague turned on her. Scolding her to take responsibility is beside the point, because she is being responsible by trying to learn from her mistakes.

  31. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

    I’ll take it one step further and suggest that you find good ways to cope with the stress that comes with being a grad student in a highly competitive field. For me, it’s when I’m STRESSED OUT that I take things so PERSONALLY. Someone cuts me off in traffic, someone forgets to call me back… it’s all on purpose, they’re all out to get me, etc, etc. It’s only when I recognize that I’m just stressed the fuck out that I can look at things from a different perspective.

    It sounds like that’s the main issue here. You think “Twerp” (maybe should have re-thought the name you gave him in order to sound a bit more mature, haha) purposefully left you out and hurt your career and you feel like he owes you an apology and even an admonishing from your advisor. You think he deserves future punishment at the next conference! You’re taking it personally when it really wasn’t. Maybe he wasn’t even that snarky or sarcastic to you (or that’s just his personality that wouldn’t have bothered you before the incident) or maybe you confronted him so strongly and harshly that it was appropriate. Twerp didn’t sit there and consciously think “I’m gonna screw the LW over today and not give her any questions”. He just went with the flow of things at the conference and focused on himself and his career. It was about HIM, not about YOU.

    Try to look at the situation from a different angle. Take some deep breaths, go for a run, do some yoga, do whatever it takes to manage your stress and then try to let it go and move forward. If it continues to bother you, channel it into your work. You’ve gotta sit next to this guy for several more years, so it’s in your best interest to let it go.

    1. Thank you this was helpful to read – he really is clueless as to why I am hurt and I did realize this some time after I wrote in to Wendy… though this hasn’t changed my mind about not wanting to rekindle a friendship.

      1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        I’m curious to know why you won’t rekindle the friendship if you won’t mind expanding on that a little bit.

      2. While I have moved on enough to be cordial and have a professional relationship with this guy, I simply don’t like or trust him anymore. I can’t say when he’ll do this again, whether intentional or not, whether inside the lab or outside of it.

      3. Avatar photo sobriquet says:

        Yay, I helped! I don’t think you need to explain why you no longer want to be friends with the guy. The fact that you even considered him a true friend to begin with makes the betrayal you feel more valid (or at least make sense). A friend you collaborated with would want to make sure you were included in the questions while a colleague wouldn’t care. I think you’re learning the hard way that professional friendships are very different than other friendships. Work/competition almost always takes precedence. That doesn’t mean you can’t still joke and be friendly while working together, but when it comes down to the actual work, understand that you’re colleagues and competitors first.

      4. !! thank you, you actually understand me 🙂

        I have navigated tense and competitive professional relationships in the past – this particular one was complicated by what I thought was a friendship and I certainly have learned from my mistake

  32. My graduate degree is in English, and there was none of this backstabbing in our department. It’s not that we were better people. It was simply understood that there was no reason to take credit for anyone else’s work, because there was no way whatsoever to judge the relative worth/worthlessness of your work versus theirs. I am confident that the only person who ever read my thesis was my father in law, and don’t ask me why he wanted to.

  33. GertietheDino says:

    You didn’t get stabbed in the back. You didn’t stand up for yourself and are redirecting the anger you have at yourself for not being more assertive at your colleague. Get over it and move on. Rock your next paper and presentation, do not allow yourself to be trampled on. You are better than that.

  34. Welcome to the real world, sweetie. Put your big girl pants on and stop being “generous”. Many will interpret generous for “doormat”. And that is exactly what this guy may have done. Or, when you left, he took that for “she walked out on OUR presentation/Q&A session”.

    This was a valuable learning experience. Find a strong female in either the workforce or in academia who can help you develop your assertive side appropriately. Perhaps a business coach of some sort. You are going to need it.

    Stop fuming. Don’t get mad. This guy did what came naturally to him. You cannot blame Scorpion for being Scorpion, can you Toad? Since you survived, yes, do speak to whomever you need to and work out something that will ensure that you have more face-time and a voice at the next presentation, but seriously work with a female instructor to help you work on your assertiveness within a male-dominated workforce. Otherwise, you may always be marginalized.

  35. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

    So, I didn’t read all of the comments, but I’m a woman in a very specific field of archaeology where there is a growing number of women, but for the most part, scientists that study Paleoindians are all men with a totally ego heavy cowboy attitude. The only way to succeed is to be as assertive as possible. One of my female mentors told me that she’s gotten far by being assertive and tall. She told me to go buy a pair of heeled boots because “You’re smart enough and pushy enough, but you can’t let them look down on you physically.” You also need to collaborate. I know people will tell you to hold back your data or your part in the research, but that’s shitty scientist behavior. In all honesty, the work might be yours, but the data isn’t. In archaeology the data belongs to the land owner–in the hard sciences, I bet the data belongs to whoever funds the study. You have to share. Funding agencies like collaborative work and it makes your science stronger. So learn to do that. Don’t fume in the corner when something isn’t going your way. That’s not collaborating, that’s being a teenager, and I bet the people asking about your poster picked up on that from you. Not a good impression.

    Next time—learn to interrupt. It’s scary. I grew up in a VERY polite family, where if the grown ups are talking you don’t interrupt—but in a professional conference, you ARE the grown ups. Internalize that you belong there, that your contribution is valid, and speak up. Don’t wait for o you. someone to “call on you” or to pass the torch on to you. No one will, so grab that torch by yourself and fight to be heard.

    My last piece of advice is a little controversial, but you’re probably my age, so you might be receptive to it. The women in my field before me competed in a man’s world by becoming more like “men.” They don’t wear makeup, they don’t wear dresses, they don’t have a “professional” wardrobe. That’s ok for fieldwork, but less ok for conferences or meetings. Dress like you mean it. Wear makeup in a way that makes you comfortable and flatters your face. Buy a dress or a skirt or dress pants, do the heels thing. Look like you mean business. You’re a woman in a male dominated field, you already stand out a little bit—use that to your advantage. Be attractive looking (I’m not saying everyone needs to be a model, but play up your features) people want to get their science from attractive people. Smile a lot, and be genuinely excited about your research.

    You don’t need to be tough and scary to be assertive. Take what you want, but do it politely, directly, and with a big smile and you’ll be surprised at how willing people are to do what you ask them to do.

    Sorry this is rambly. I’m currently putting together my poster for my big conference that I’m leaving for tomorrow. Ooops. Bad scientist.

    1. what a wonderful comment, thank you. Especially the below, which is the most valuable, applicable advice on this thread…

      “Next time—learn to interrupt. It’s scary. I grew up in a VERY polite family, where if the grown ups are talking you don’t interrupt—but in a professional conference, you ARE the grown ups. Internalize that you belong there, that your contribution is valid, and speak up. Don’t wait for o you. someone to “call on you” or to pass the torch on to you. No one will, so grab that torch by yourself and fight to be heard.”

      I have always been partial enjoying fashion and makeup – it’s hard to say whether being ultra-feminine has hurt or helped me in my career, but I KNOW I will continue!

      1. Seriously read the book Wendy recommended. It’s full of excellent advice. In fact, I’m going to re-read my copy.

    2. and good luck at your conference!

    3. Speaking up for what you want is good practical advice in any situation, not just work related. I’m a fairly empathetic person and I usually go out of my way to make people happy or to include people. I would get angry and/or hurt when others didn’t reciprocate. But you know what? I finally realized that you are responsible for your own happiness. Others aren’t. They look out for number 1. Themselves. So, I’ve actively changed the way I go about things. I ask to be included. I learned to interject. I speak up. I’m a lot happier than I was when I didn’t do these things.

      LW – you need to learn to do this in both your personal and work life. Otherwise, you’ll always be angry at someone.

  36. trixy minx says:

    “I’m the mother fucker that found the place” haha anyone seen zero dark thirty?

  37. I’m one of the few other science PhDs here, so I feel comfortable enough weighing in and saying your labmate was a dick. Next time, don’t give him an inch on anything important; he’s not trustworthy. You can probably trust him not to sabotage your cell cultures or anything, but not when it comes to giving due credit.

    Unlike everyone else, I’d say this stuff is really important, esp. if you’re looking to become a PI. Credit does matter until you get tenure. Speaking up matters. I think it’s bullshit to say he can’t be blamed a la the scorpion and the frog… he certainly should’ve been more professional. Ultimately, though, you’re going to learn not to open yourself up to be stung, so he’s probably given you a gift by doing this early. After all, you could’ve been scooped or your cell cultures contaminated or betrayed in another really serious way. This is small, and a good early lesson. Watch your back, speak up for yourself, and keep your foot on the gas. This is a long road you’re traveling, and it doesn’t get easier.

    1. You Go Girl says:

      I am also a scientist who just graduated with a PhD. I agree with Ammie that this is a topic the LW should discuss with her advisor once she has calmed down. She should approach the situation as a logistics issue, and say she does not know how to make sure everyone who worked on a project gets credit. Usually presentations list everyone who contributes as a coauthor, and sometimes two people can present. This was a painful learning experience for the LW, but she will be able to move forward without permanent damage to her career.

  38. OMFG enough of the 80’s baby nonsense.

    I was born in 1980, I have a successful career and do not expect things to be handed to me. Nor does anyone else I know!!! We are ADULTS with families and responsibilities.


    1. i wouldnt take it so personally, lol, its just a phrase that sounds good/rhymes (eighties babies) that describes the product of … “newer”? parenting, child upbringing, schooling and overall culture in modern times.

      im an 80s baby too, and i think its fascinating. i also see it in a lot of my friends, which is kind of sad.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        I agree. It’s bizarre that people take it so personally. If the stereotype doesn’t apply to you – well then carry on.

    2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      I agree. it’s a bullshit way to explain poor behavior. There are an infinite number of “80’s babies” who do not fall into the “entitlement” crap- like this LW and myself.

      And as kerry pointed out above- there are a fair number of studies which basically go against this “80’s babies” theme that has permeated pop culture. Adults born in the 80’s often act more closely to adults born in the great depression- not entitled brats.

  39. Excellent book recommendation Wendy. I have that book, and it’s full of useful advice. Things that you don’t even think of. Some of the lessons I took to heart were:
    -don’t use minimizing language like “I *think* this *should* have everything we discussed” instead of “here is the report as discussed”
    -don’t ask permission for things like expenses
    I catch myself on stuff all the time.

  40. “I let him take the title out of generosity even though I am an equal contributor to the work.” If you keep doing that ppl will just steal all your work away, with your permission! And next time just speak up instead of waiting for the other person to re-direct questions to you. And telling your boss or whatever will not help you.

  41. melancholia says:

    This is not an example of being backstabbed or “cut-throat” academia. It is a prime example of your bad judgment. Why on Earth would you allow someone else to take full credit for your ideas? And why would you expect this person NOT to jump at the chance to do so, especially after you gave consent? This is a prime example of people caring more about what their peers think about them than focusing on their overall wellbeing. Never, ever give another person credit for your work, because guess what?! They will take it, especially if it gives them a chance to advance their career or reach their goals faster. You made a big mistake and now you are facing the consequences. Take this as a lesson learned that you need to forget about “being nice” and you need to work hard to prove your worth in your industry and never, ever put another person’s goals and career advances ahead of your own.

  42. Sue Jones says:

    Yep, and it goes for self-employment as well! One week I had 3 new clients on my calendar which is great! I thought to myself “Yay! I have a great week coming up and I can’t wait to work with these new clients!” Well a day later ALL THREE cancelled! I was sure that I had a dark cloud over my head that day. Come to find out that a colleague who has similar education to me, but a new grad brand new in town with a small start up practice was running a daily deal that week. I think that my would be clients went to her! The sad thing is that the companies that run the daily deals ask you to discount your fees by about 75% and then they take half! So this colleague, with 8 years of professional education is making only $10 an hour ( where we usually make about $170/hour!) So she kind of wrecked it for all of us including herself! And most of the “daily deal” shoppers are looking for deals and WON’T become regular clients…. Can’t blame them, but this is the sort of thing you can run up against every day. Even after doing this for over 20 years… You have to be tough and you have to be a bitch and set strong boundaries sometimes.

  43. Sorry this has nothing to do with being a woman. People are like that in the real world. Be ready to go to bat, or get left behind. Like Wendy said, everyone’s competing. It pays to be nice, but it sometimes it pays even more to realize it’s a dog-eat-dog world.

    Women do this to each other. Men do this to each other. People do this to each other. Don’t try to turn this into some sort of issue.

    That’s just my perspective.

  44. PhD neuroscientist here. I personally don’t understand why you’re so upset. You let him be presenting author. If you wanted that, you should have fought for that. When you asked him to leave the poster so you could present, he did. For the next conference, ask to have your own poster. If you’re really worried, double check with your PI about being first co-authors on any paper that comes from your work—maybe start campaigning to be the first listed co-author. Apply for travel grants for a conference so you can justify having your own poster. Whatever you do, don’t go to your PI, complaining that you let your labmate be presenting author, and then he did a good job of it. You’ll sound ridiculous.

    1. You Go Girl says:

      I am a PhD atmospheric scientist. This is good advice. The LW should not approach her advisor in a complaining way about how her colleague stole the limelight. Instead she should check with her advisor about how to become a first author, and ask him if there is funding for her to attend more conferences. She should also apply for travel grants so she can go to more conferences as a first author of the poster or paper. Her university probably has travel grants, and some conferences also have travel grants. I attended the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco with two university and one AGU travel grant.

      1. That’s funny, my cousin is an atmospheric scientist and went to AGU this past year too. Small world.

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